COLUMBIA, S.C. (WBTW) — Attorney General Alan Wilson filed a lawsuit Monday against several companies, including 3M and DuPont, saying they knowingly contaminated South Carolina’s natural resources and drinking water through their use of toxic “forever chemicals” known as PFAS.

“I’m a firm believer in the free market, but when companies knowingly violate the law and harm South Carolinians in the process, there deserves to be consequences. By filing this suit, we’re fighting to protect our valuable natural resources and keep South Carolinians safe,” Wilson said in a news release.

PFAS are a group of synthetic chemical compounds that are not naturally occurring in the environment. They are used in many consumer products, including food packaging and nonstick cookware. They’re also used in textile, electronic and automotive manufacturing.

“Despite knowing for decades that PFAS chemicals are toxic, Defendants have misled the public and government regulators by consistently and publicly denying that their PFAS products presented any harm to human health or the environment,” the lawsuit said. “By purposefully sending toxic chemicals into South Carolina while misleading the public and commercial and industrial users about their properties and known risks, the Defendants have caused widespread contamination and injuries to State natural resources. [PFAS chemicals] contaminate South Carolina’s drinking water, groundwater, surface water, wildlife, soil, and sediment.”

According to the lawsuit filed in Richland County, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control has begun investigating PFAS contamination throughout the
State and found the chemicals in “most environmental media, including soil and sediment, groundwater, surface water, and biota.”

“DHEC is aware of the presence of PFAS in sludge from wastewater treatment
plants,” the lawsuit said. “Biosolids from sludge at wastewater treatment plants are often used as a soil additive at agricultural sites or in commercial products. PFAS contamination through these pathways has greatly expanded the breadth of PFAS contamination in the State.”

The DHEC investigation has focused on community public water systems, lakes, rivers, streams, and fish tissue, private wells, and sludge from wastewater treatment facilities used as a soil amendment or additive,” the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit is seeking damages for the costs of investigation, monitoring, abatement,
containment, treatment, and removal of PFAS from the state’s natural resources and property, and punitive damages for the defendants’ “egregious conduct.” It also seeks compensation for damage to natural resources and injunctive relief and civil penalties aimed at preventing additional contamination.

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Dennis Bright is a digital producer at News13. Dennis is a West Virginia native and graduate of Marshall University. He has won copyediting and journalism awards in West Virginia and Ohio. Follow Dennis on Twitter and read more of his work here.